Thursday, May 1, 2014

Lonesome Song

My siblings and I were raised on folk music, with a healthy dose of smooth jazz. My dad was in the Navy after college so my parents couldn't really be hippies. But they did wear bell-bottom corduroy pants and my mom, though Caucasian, had a really impressive afro. They loved the folk music of the era: Peter Paul and Mary, Jim Croce, The Brothers Four, James Taylor. We sang along to these classics on family vacations. They sound like the beach, and my parents voices. They feel like the plush blue fabric of our family van, and they smell like home.

It's not surprising, then, that I would carry a love of folk music into my adult life. My favorite current musicians are folk artists who draw from country, blues and soul, with lots of acoustic instrumentation and earnest harmonies. Like Girlyman, The Civil Wars, The Good Lovelies and The Wailin' Jennys.

Darrell Scott is just right, too. His song "A Crooked Road" became one of my all-time favorites the first time I heard it. One of the verses goes:
"I sing a lonesome song to anyone who’ll listen,
To anyone who’ll listen I will sing my lonesome song.
And when I hear you singing too, the sorrow sounds so hopeful
the sorrow sounds so hopeful, when I sing my lonesome song."
This is so deeply true to me. Lonesome and sorrow are part of the human condition, no matter how easy your life is. My favorite truth-teller Glennon puts it this way:
"sadness is not a "first world problem." It's just part of the human experience. And we are all blessed/cursed with the ENTIRE human experience no matter where we live or what we have or don't have. So please don't tell yourself you can't be sad because someone somewhere is probably sadder unless you're also going to refuse to allow yourself to be happy because somebody somewhere might be happier." 
Sorrow comes from lots of very legitimate sources. And lonesome comes from a legitimate source too: the fact that we are each, ultimately, alone. No matter how loved and lucky I am, it's still just me, responsible for being a grown-up and taking care of myself. I fight this truth every day with things like tv and wine and chocolate, and also with singing and dancing and laughing. It is human to want to run from the loneliness.

My lonely and sorrow have nothing to do with my childhood or my parents. My parents are amazing. They populated my life with love, comfort and opportunity. They gave me great advice and a spiritual foundation, and taught me how to navigate the world. They took us on vacations and played folk music. Their home is maybe my favorite place on earth.

In fact, ever since leaving my parents' house over 15 years ago I have been trying to go "home," looking for a way out of my lonely and sorrow. I exhausted myself, and my husband, in this effort.

But... as much as I hate to admit it, there is no going back. My parents home, though it will always be a source of love and comfort, cannot be my grown-up home. I AM my grown-up home. I have to become my own caretaker, my own source of comfort, my own best friend.

It is a wild, solitary journey, and I have a long way to go.

This is my lonesome song. I'm singing it to anyone who will listen, seeking fellow travelers and hope in the process.

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